The 130 firefighters in New Britain, CT, are happier now than they were a year ago. That’s because they’ve moved from training in a scattering of old, underutilized local buildings to customized training on their new Assistant Fire Chief structure.
Installed in 2021, The Assistant Fire Chief from Fire Facilities provides a four-story training tower, residential section, and burn room annex. During the design process, customized additions were included in the structure, including a parapet roof and a gabled roof with attic space.
“The parapet roof simulates buildings in our area with flat roofs,” says Captain Mark O’Connor with the Office of Planning and Research in New Britain, CT. “The gabled roof simulates a pitched roof. Both are for vertical ventilation training. The attic space is being used for vent entry search and simulating attics.
“Fire Facilities was great to work with in customizing our structure. Their rep, David Tusio, was responsive, reachable and knowledgeable to help us every step of the way.”
O’Connor, a firefighter in New Britain for 31 years, played a large role in helping the city obtain the new fire training structure. He started by establishing and chairing the training tower building committee. Together with New Britain Fire Department Chief Raul Ortiz and City Facility Director Jon Delgadillo, the team worked to get the approval for the tower from the Mayor’s Office and then funding from the City Council.
“After we gained approval, next we worked with Fire Facilities to customize The Assistant Fire Chief for our specific training needs,” says O’Connor. “We then chose a construction company to turn the dream into reality. We have not had a dedicated training facility here in over 50 years, so this is groundbreaking for us.”
Realistic Training Opportunities
For Chief Ortiz, who has been a firefighter for 23 years, the new fire training structure comes at the ideal time. He has eight fire companies, six stations and 130 firefighters — all eager for real-life training.
“Ultimately we want to use The Assistant Fire Chief to train on scenarios we would most likely encounter in our city,” says Ortiz. “Then we want to use the site for specialized rescues, including confined spaces, and high angle rescue.
“The structure allows us to properly train our individuals while also giving us the ability to reconfigure the layout and keep it interesting for firefighters. Some of the simplest tasks that were previously troublesome for us to accomplish will be met with ease using the facility.
“The versatility of The Assistant Fire Chief is tremendous. We can use the structure for everything from search and rescue, to hose stretches ladder deployment, to live fire training.”
Shared Training Structure
In addition to firefighters training on The Assistant Fire Chief, there will be a host of others using the structure.
“This is a public training facility that will be used to provide multi-agency training to improve coordination between agencies,” says Peter Towey, Assistant Fire Chief at the New Britain Fire Department. “We certainly envision cross training with EMS and other public servants. We hope the structure will increase operational effectiveness and ensure consistent training across all four shifts.”
According to Ortiz, the increased footprint of the structure will also help entry level firefighters with their physical agility testing. “We are excited about all the possibilities The Assistant Fire Chief affords us,” says Ortiz. “We are really limited only by our own imagination in its functionality.”